Why HR needs to shed its Toby Flenderson1 Image ?
Image Credits - http://iworkattheoffice.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/toby.jpg
Remember Toby Wyatt Flenderson, the HR Manager on the U.S. comedy television series, “The
Toby represents the archetypal Human Resource Manager: soft-spoken, easy to be with and
generally of good disposition who seems to spend most of his time telling people what not to do.
In the increasingly VUCA times we find ourselves in, is this the type of image we want associated
with the HR profession?
Is the profession today then at a crossroads?
HR Futurist, Jay Jamrog couldn’t have put this more succinctly when he said “Human Resources
is crippled with educated incapacity”
In views drawn from my own experience & following the footprints of some great HR
practitioners , this has more to do with the challenges that beset the HR profession today and
how the function is still caught between its evolving role from an arbiter of Human Relations to
one of managing the resource supply chain. The rapidly changing business environment
necessitates that HR grow out of its "soft touch" mode prone to providing 'sugar and honey'
solutions and instead get more business aligned, financially oriented & accountable to provide
greater business value. The real value of HR comes not from its role as an internal people
operations team but more from its role in Talent Management. This value creation must happen
in concert with the CEO of the organization. When we think of it “Talent Management” is a
business process, not an HR process – and if the key architects of the corporate topography
don’t “own it”, it cannot be forced down. The 'license" from the top can be a big enabler for HR
to live up to its true reputation of a Strategic Partner.
Another challenge that confronts HR is the 'difficulty of aligning HR Strategy to business
strategy, as business strategy has a dynamic character and it is difficult to tweak a
compensation strategy or performance management program to keep up'. The scenario
necessitates that HR professionals operate out of a set of principles and personal values. It
requires stepping up to the issues that are centric to the organization bottom line and not get
too bogged down with administrivia, which is seeing an increasing trend of being outsourced.
The job of HR is not about being a 'do- gooder' but more about attracting the best and brightest
people and raising the value of the enterprise
It is unfortunate that HR is one of the overhead functions that gets downsized when times get
tough, either through a reduction in its budgets or by reducing its staff. All administrative
support functions are increasingly coming under pressure to demonstrate their value & HR
today needs to take some radical steps that will improve and impact the credibility of the
function if it has to be seen as a corporate leader that can influence senior management
regarding the importance of people issues. It must respond by becoming more financially
oriented and accountable focusing on outcomes and less on the activity subset.
We as HR leaders have to figure out how to meet the future needs of business and lead
organizational change not wait to be told, when and how. The vagaries of the economic scene
today make it implicit for HR to acquire a new set of tools and skills. The 'new' HR professional
must be strong in business and finance (metrics driven), have a strong technology background
and be a risk taker. While HR professionals generally are adept at relationship building, they
need to become more business –centric today. Some possible changes to the HR function in the
near future would include:
Greater focus on metrics and return on investment methodologies
Reduction in focus on generalist HR roles to more specialist roles covering recruitments,
assessments, learning & development, analytics
Increased focus on people productivity, performance metrics and coaching
Transaction roles, activities within HR domain to be increasingly outsourced
Yes HR is and will remain a people centric business but its future promise to provide
competitive advantage would lie more at the intersection of people with business, process,
technology and organizational strategy.